Do we Need Mobile Etiquette in the Supermarket?

The Lempert Report
September 21, 2015

Yes, it's the digital age, but how much is too much?

Wandering around a supermarket these days, you'd probably notice that almost everyone at some point becomes consumed with their smartphone. The first iPhone arrived on the scene in 2007, and ever since then these devices have developed into a crucial part of the consumer lifestyle. From shopping lists, to coupons, to recipe searches and price comparisons, you pretty much can't shop without them, and that's not even mentioning all the most basic reasons we use them, to send messages, make phone calls or take photos. 

And while we always talk about supermarkets needing to be relevant to the modern shopper and have a presence on digital platforms, is there a point when using devices in the supermarkets gets annoying, or even dangerous?

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center,  there are different views on when it is generally acceptable to use a phone and when it is not. For example, young adults generally seem more forgiving of smartphone usage in public places than those who didn’t grow up with a lot of technology. While 90 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds think it’s ok to use a phone on public transportation, just 54 percent of Americans aged 65 and older would agree with that. 

The survey did show a broad consensus on a few places being off-limits such as: using a phone at family dinners, meetings and movie theaters is considered rude by roughly 9 in 10 American adults, regardless of age.

But what about supermarkets? What can supermarkets do to impose social order and mobile etiquette in their stores - if say, people are clogging the aisles while looking up prices or tripping over people while texting? The problem is, for supermarkets with apps that have deals and coupons or tools to load shopping lists - you actually want people engaged with their phone so that they are in fact, engaged with the stores mobile platform while shopping. But perhaps simple signs to remind customers to stand to the side while looking up an item, could help others feel less frustrated. Or perhaps even designated smartphone areas with charging stations for those just needing to make calls or send messages. It's a fine line between pushing your own digital platform while trying to maintain order in the store, but a few simple tweaks could mean a happier shopping trip for everyone!